Anti-Brexit politicians and commentators have begun interpreting the EU election results in creative ways in order to claim success.
Arch-Remainer Anna Soubry, the MP for Leave-voting Broxtowe who defected from the Tories to help found the Change UK (CUK) party of anti-Brexit “centrists” went so far as to declare victory, despite its signal failure to win even a single seat.
“Thank you to over 600,000 people who voted [CUK],” she posted on Twitter.
“We have polled better than any genuinely new UK party,” she insisted. “We are at the beginning of changing British Politics with #Labour and the #Conservatives in sharp decline”.
Soubry’s assertion rather flies in the face of the fact that Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which won the election outright, was massively more successful, succeeding in galvanising much of the Leave vote in a way CUK had hoped to galvanise the Remain vote.
The 62-year-old tried to explain this away by suggesting that the Brexit Party was “just a retread of Nigel Farage’s long-standing” — and therefore not “genuinely” new, apparently — but this overlooks the fact that CUK is itself comprised mainly of well-established MPs from the Tories and Labour, including former government ministers like herself.
Thank you to over 600,000 people who voted @ForChange_Now and our excellent candidates. We have polled better than any genuinely new UK party. We are at the beginning of changing British Politics with #Labour and the #Conservatives in sharp decline #EuropeanElectionResults
— Anna Soubry MP (@Anna_Soubry) May 26, 2019
Remain-leaning mainstream media broadcasters have also sought creative interpretations of the results to downplay the Brexit Party’s lightning progress, with Sky’s Adam Boulton — who previously described the party’s ambition to be included in the Brexit talks as “close to authoritarian fascism” — adding up the votes of all the anti-Brexit parties plus Labour “just for fun” and suggesting that, in fact, the results show a proxy majority for staying in the European Union.
Iraq War spinmeister Alastair Campbell struck a similar tone in his new role as regular anti-Brexit talking head, announcing he would be extolling “the triumph of the Remain parties in the European elections” on the BBC.
Well, let’s hope they don’t let you get away with such transparent spin and nonsense unchallenged!! https://t.co/Tc0ahe8N8l
— Andrew Neil (@afneil) May 27, 2019
There is a certain dubiousness to this interpretation, however, considering there are many reasons voters might be inclined to vote for some of the anti-Brexit parties besides their anti-Brexit stance — for example, around a third of Scottish National Party (SNP) voters are thought to have backed Brexit in 2016, but may have considered the party’s support for separating Scotland from the United Kingdom ahead of its support for cancelling Brexit when casting their EU election ballots.
The decision of Boulton and many other observers to count Labour as “Remain” is also problematic, given it said it would deliver Brexit in its 2017 election manifesto, and still claims to “respect the vote” of 2016 even though it is clear most of its MPs plan on reopening the issue in either a general election or a “public vote”.
Notably, the Remain parties failed utterly in their attempts to unite around a single candidate for the upcoming Peterborough by-election, with the Lib Dems and Greens both standing their own candidates and CUK forced to bow out of the contest.
— Brendan Chilton (@BrendanChilton) May 26, 2019